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One study: teams named after Indians are costing themselves millions by NOT changing their mascots

Apr 15, 2014, 5:03 PM EDT

Chief Wahoo guy

I feel like there are about 100 other factors that go into what this study is purporting to measure, but I throw it out there because it’s interesting.

Two researchers have looked into the impact team mascots and names have on the bottom line. They studied colleges who changed their nicknames and mascots away from Indian names and symbols and on to something else and then looked at the growth in revenue for Indian-named pro teams compared to their non-Indian counterparts.

The results: college programs experienced a small, short term reduction in revenue but over time saw revenues increase. For the pros:

Examining the financial performance over the past dozen years for four teams—the Kansas City Chiefs and the Washington Redskins in the NFL, and the Atlanta Braves and Cleveland Indians in Major League Baseball—revealed the eye-opening result that having a Native American mascot appears to cost professional sports teams millions of dollars in annual revenue—at least $1.6 million per year in the NFL, and $2.6 million per year for MLB’s Braves and Indians.

The linked story talks to the researchers and explains their theories about their findings.

Like I said, I question how exact this sort of science can be and whether a lot of other factors aren’t accounting for them. For example, there is mention of a revenue bump when the Washington Wizards changed their name from the Bullets. Which, yes, did happen. But it also coincided with that franchise getting a ton of good young talent in the mid 90s, winning more games than it had and moving into a new arena. The impact of the name may have caused some people to get new t-shirts or maybe even to patronize the team’s games more often. But winning and new facilities had to be a bigger factor.

One thing here is indisputable, though: the bottom line will drive a business’s decisions more than anything else. And, this study aside, if the Indians, Redskins, Braves and other teams experience a revenue drop off they themselves attribute to their nicknames and mascots, they will change.

  1. duvisited - Apr 15, 2014 at 5:09 PM

    Sadly, I don’t think this will change many minds. It feels like the Washington football club sells $1.6 million in merchandise every day in the D.C. area.

  2. pjmitch - Apr 15, 2014 at 5:22 PM

    I have a tough time believing a study like this given so many other factors that come into play.

  3. happytwinsfan - Apr 15, 2014 at 5:26 PM

    chief wahoo has a negative DAR? (sorry, the twins not losing today has me feeling like a snarky teenage boy)

    • clydeserra - Apr 15, 2014 at 6:50 PM

      meh, all those old bittys at the DAR are negative.

  4. cur'68 - Apr 15, 2014 at 5:27 PM

    I’d really like these conclusion to not be based on some crap science.

    • historiophiliac - Apr 15, 2014 at 5:50 PM

      Marketing. It’s not science. It’s not even art.

      • cur'68 - Apr 15, 2014 at 5:57 PM

        If I wasn’t totally skiving off today I’d read that study for soundness. But when you dedicate a day to just loafing, then you’d best just loaf.

      • historiophiliac - Apr 15, 2014 at 6:04 PM

        I had to sit in training all morning and missed all the good stuff. Stupid job. I wish I was loafing. And I don’t even get a game tonight again. 😦

      • cur'68 - Apr 15, 2014 at 6:21 PM

        Yeah, rain out there. The Beav are playing in Minnesota. An open air stadium, too. Its 36F there right now with a chance of SNOW. I hope they wear their longjohns. They might get the dreaded snow-out tomorrow as well.

      • brewcrewchamps - Apr 15, 2014 at 6:44 PM

        I’m just about to head out to the game in minneapolis. It’s bound to be a cold one. At least my beer will stay cold AND warm me up afterwards. Win-win really.

      • cur'68 - Apr 15, 2014 at 7:09 PM

        I at once envy you and worry for you brewcrewchamps. Don’t freeze to death out there.

      • historiophiliac - Apr 15, 2014 at 7:29 PM

        Woooo! Look at all those thumbs down. Winning!

      • nbjays - Apr 16, 2014 at 7:33 AM

        Speaking of snowouts… Cur, do you remember the Jays’ very first home opener in Exhibition Stadium? That was the official “Welcome to Canada” for the AL.

  5. randygnyc - Apr 15, 2014 at 5:31 PM


  6. aschwartz2011 - Apr 15, 2014 at 5:38 PM

    At the very least they would get an immediate boost as a lot of people would run out and buy new jerseys and gear.

  7. JuniorGriffey'sRecliner - Apr 15, 2014 at 5:39 PM

    It can really hurt the cause when people just start making stuff up.

  8. dobe420 - Apr 15, 2014 at 6:04 PM

    They are just trying to remove the Indian in every sport because they want you to forget what they looked like as they rip them out of the pages of history books. Once they get rid of the image, it will only be a matter of time until they are gone for good as they know those people don’t procreate out of their tribes.

    • tfbuckfutter - Apr 15, 2014 at 6:18 PM

      Good thing we eliminated Little Black Sambo from literature or this place might be crawling with….y’know….racist caricatures….

      But don’t tell Chief Wahoo I said that. I don’t want to hurt his feelings.

    • historiophiliac - Apr 15, 2014 at 6:20 PM

      I know you’ll find this bizarre, but there are totally different — and even better — ways to keep Native American history alive. And removing a mascot from a team does not rip them out of history books. None of the textbooks I’ve used even include the Indian’s mascot. It won’t change history books at all (except some sports ones maybe). But, anyway, that’s why I am sure to include a bunch of stuff about Native Americans in my classes. Feel free to share what you are doing to keep the history of American Indians alive.

      • chc4 - Apr 15, 2014 at 6:26 PM

        I personally keep the history alive in my heart by watching the Seinfeld cigar store indian episode about once a month.

      • tfbuckfutter - Apr 15, 2014 at 6:28 PM

        Also, not to get all Mathemagician….but if “those people” don’t procreate outside of their tribe then how the hell is everyone 1/something Cherokee?

      • historiophiliac - Apr 15, 2014 at 9:19 PM

        Maths is hard.

    • happytwinsfan - Apr 15, 2014 at 6:38 PM

      “as they know those people don’t procreate out of their tribes”

      my nephew, sister in law and brother would beg to differ. you should know that we think of you as one of “those people”.

  9. anxovies - Apr 15, 2014 at 6:26 PM

    The word “Indians” is a common, non-derogatory name for a group or culture that does not refer to skin color or racial characteristics, and I see no harm in using it as a name for a team. I suppose they could rename the team the “Politicians or the “Carpetbaggers,” but campaign buttons and suitcases make for pretty boring team memorabilia.

    • tfbuckfutter - Apr 15, 2014 at 6:30 PM


      The word “Indians” is actually a very common and accepted word to describe an entire group of people from a mystical foreign land known as “India”.

      • daveitsgood - Apr 15, 2014 at 7:35 PM

        This land known as “India” of which you speak, tell me more. Can we perhaps find exotics spices and a land passage to Asia there?

      • tfbuckfutter - Apr 15, 2014 at 7:57 PM

        I don’t think so.

        The last guy who tried to find it got REALLY badly effing lost.

        But he was from Spain. And you know how THEY are with navigating. (sidenote: I feel like this is a legitimate basis for an ethnic stereotype. Let’s make that happen.)

      • historiophiliac - Apr 15, 2014 at 8:53 PM

        Yeah, he certainly wasn’t Portuguese.

      • tfbuckfutter - Apr 15, 2014 at 9:15 PM


        Of course he wasn’t a mythical bird.

      • jsips - Apr 15, 2014 at 9:57 PM

        I think he was Italian. He was born in Genoa.

      • tfbuckfutter - Apr 15, 2014 at 10:02 PM

        “He’s a bird” “He’s a salami”….

        Look, let’s just all agree the dude had the navigational abilities of a woman and leave it at that.

      • historiophiliac - Apr 15, 2014 at 10:13 PM

        I’m gonna be mad if no one gets the Henry the Navigator reference. :/

      • yahmule - Apr 16, 2014 at 12:30 AM

        “Ah, you’re Indians.”

        Louis CK ~

  10. ezthinking - Apr 15, 2014 at 6:27 PM

    This ‘study’ is interesting in the same fashion that every non-scientific study is interesting – who’s the dipshat that came up with the test?

    I won’t say that the results couldn’t be valid, it’s just the ‘test’ or ‘study’ isn’t valid.

    For example, it’s like saying a player is ‘clutch’ because he hit a game-winning homerun with looking at whether he had been in the situation before, how he produced, what others had done in the same circumstance, etc…

    I am cross-ways with Craig on the mascot/name issue in many respects. We certainly agree that disparagement is evil and wrong. I live front-lines with Indian (Native American to those detached) issues. BS studies like this not help the situation, it will hinder them.

    Check out the news today… people shot, stabbed or persecuted because of perceived membership in ethnicities, religions, skin colors, political parties, nationalities, etc…

    Banishing the issue into history does not work. Some think George Santayana invented ” Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.” Regardless of your religion, the concept is thousands of years older:

    9 What has been will be again,
    what has been done will be done again;
    there is nothing new under the sun.
    10 Is there anything of which one can say,
    “Look! This is something new”?
    It was here already, long ago;
    it was here before our time.
    11 No one remembers the former generations,
    and even those yet to come
    will not be remembered
    by those who follow them.

    Ecclesiastes 1:9-11

    The text is more than 2000 years old. Burying or ignoring history never works. The question is, how do we fix it?

  11. tfbuckfutter - Apr 15, 2014 at 6:41 PM

    I will point out one thing that the study didn’t mentioned….

    The professional teams using Native American iconography could also increase their revenue by not being such incredibly terrible teams for the last 20-30 years or longer.

    (And, just as a forewarning, if you mention the “success” of Braves in making the playoffs I am going to point out their ultimate failure in every single season when not matched up against a pitiful team that is also on the list)

  12. NatsLady - Apr 15, 2014 at 6:41 PM

    Wow, the Calcaterra quadrifecta: Race Relations, Native American Team Names, troll Filly fans (twice) and troll Nats fans.

    • historiophiliac - Apr 15, 2014 at 6:52 PM

      It’s a grand slam.

      • nbjays - Apr 16, 2014 at 7:37 AM

        Craig just trolled for the cycle.

    • kruegere - Apr 15, 2014 at 7:49 PM

      “I wouldn’t have used PEDs if the Indians didn’t have a racist logo.”

      -Alex Rodriguez

      • asimonetti88 - Apr 15, 2014 at 9:30 PM

        I probably wouldn’t have used PEDs if the Indians didn’t have a racist logo, but if I was in Philly I would have used them more to try to deal with the tough fanbase there.

  13. sisisisisisisi - Apr 15, 2014 at 7:04 PM

    The Mumbai Indians of the IPL (Indian Premier League, cricket) ranked 24 here

    Don’t think they will change their name anytime soon

  14. chip56 - Apr 15, 2014 at 7:14 PM

    Craig you crack me up. Cherry-picking one study that backs up your personal stance is just epic horse crap journalism. You can go online and find a study for basically every point of view. Here’s one that says water is bad for you

    Whether your stance on this Indians issue is right or wrong is irrelevant; your process is crap.

    • tfbuckfutter - Apr 15, 2014 at 7:27 PM


      Your understanding of that article you posted is horse crap comprehension.

      • historiophiliac - Apr 15, 2014 at 8:58 PM

        I always think people who use Huff-Po as their source are a little sketchy…

      • tfbuckfutter - Apr 15, 2014 at 9:14 PM

        I like Huff-Po.

        I don’t take it as a source of unbiased information, but I do find their choice of topics enlightening and they lead me to try and find more information.

        Plus they post Daily Show clips and stuff.

      • chip56 - Apr 15, 2014 at 10:48 PM


        The article itself is unimportant. The point, which clearly went over your head, is that you can spend two minutes on Google and literally find a study that will support any narrative that you’re interested in, from too much water being bad for you to links between early potty training and promiscuity in women.

        Craig’s a very smart guy, he knows that what he did was crap journalism.

      • historiophiliac - Apr 15, 2014 at 11:17 PM

        That chip56’s a smart guy. Why do you think he doesn’t Google a little longer so he doesn’t have to read Huff Po? I mean, you can find crazy crap anywhere, so why can’t he be more discriminating and find his crazy crap on Forbes or something instead of on Craig’s posts? That’s crap googling.

      • tfbuckfutter - Apr 15, 2014 at 11:28 PM

        “Here’s a article about smog. It says you should stop breathing. What the hell kind of journalism is that?”

      • historiophiliac - Apr 16, 2014 at 8:27 AM

        Without even looking, I know you found that on Huff Po.

      • tfbuckfutter - Apr 16, 2014 at 8:49 AM

        Shut up, honkey.

    • unclemosesgreen - Apr 16, 2014 at 8:09 AM

      Craig’s also smart enough to know that he’s not a journalist. He’s a blogger.

      Why don’t you get smarter and adapt to that fact.

  15. gothapotamus90210 - Apr 15, 2014 at 7:30 PM

    The Cleveland Manifest Destiny has a nice ring to it.

  16. mikhelb - Apr 15, 2014 at 7:31 PM

    Is there a study to check if teams named after something related to the sea are doing worse in attendance than those than not?

    Off the top of my head: Marlins, Mariners and Rays should change their names to see their attendance and revenue stream grow.

  17. chip56 - Apr 15, 2014 at 7:46 PM

    My guess is that you could also find a study that says while Native Americans don’t like Chief Wahoo or the Tomahawk Chop they care less about it than they do the real issues facing their communities like poverty, joblessness and addiction. And would rather have white liberals help with that effort than this cosmetic stuff.

    • historiophiliac - Apr 15, 2014 at 8:57 PM

      This is the crazy thing: why are you trying to make it an either/or. Why not address the problems AND stop belittling them. Hint: the two might go hand-in-hand.

      • chip56 - Apr 15, 2014 at 10:42 PM

        I don’t have a problem with trying to fix both problems, but if someone like Craig is going to obsess about only one, you would think it would be the more important one than the petty one.

        Talking about logos and mascots is like an ER doctor coming across a person who was just in a car accident and deciding to treat their hangnail before addressing their more serious injuries.

        I’m sure that Native Americans are glad for the number of prominent people who are trying to assist them, my guess though is that they would prefer it to have these people use their platforms to highlight the more important issues instead of, as I said, the cosmetic ones.

      • historiophiliac - Apr 15, 2014 at 11:10 PM

        Except that this is a baseball blog and Craig is covering baseball-related aspects of the issue (and people still complain). Really, how can you expect to get citizens to support programs to help Indian communities if they can’t even get the Wahoo issue? Plus, these matters are complicated because sometimes the goals in these communities are not what the government and certain segments of the white population want for them. We still go round and round about this. You have to wonder when we are going to finally figure it out. In the meantime, my state and several of the Indian nations remain locked in legal battles. I wish we could stop fussing and start making a difference.

      • kyzslew77 - Apr 16, 2014 at 11:53 AM

        This is too late to the discussion for anyone to read, but holy dog balls, chip56: this is a baseball blog.

  18. guinsrule2 - Apr 15, 2014 at 8:19 PM

    The study points out college teams who changed their Indian related names (many of whom did so in the 1970s) have seen their revenue rise in the long run…well yeah, the money in college sports has skyrocketed in the past decades for most schools, including those who never had Indian-related names. Wow, what a study…

  19. provguard - Apr 15, 2014 at 9:53 PM

    It seems to me that NBC is the ONLY one that cares. Sure…….the NFL is losing money? Who you kidding? Calcaterra and Costa, get your puritan glasses off and join the rest of the world….

  20. shyts7 - Apr 15, 2014 at 10:06 PM

    This “study” is quite amusing. First off the Kansas City Chiefs is a wolf. These morons don’t really look at that. The name Chiefs is not even Indian related. The name comes from the mayor of KC when the Chiefs moved from Dallas. The only thing even closely related to Native Americans is the logo, which is an arrowhead.

    The next team the Braves’ mascot is that of a players body and a giant baseball as a head. How is that in anyway related to a Native American? You might say the name. Well yes the name Braves is alluded to as being Native American only because of the tomahawk on their chest. How in the heck is that insensitive.

    What this all boils down to, is that this “study” was done by some liberal with an agenda. First off, you can’t be offended by any Indian name, unless you are a Native American and even then, they don’t care. The people who are griping about the name break down into two categories, those that have some sort of agenda (like money, power, etc.) and those that have too much time on their hands and want to gripe about every little thing. This “study” is a farce. There are far too many factors to accurately quantify the amount of money that the team would be gaining or losing by changing the name.

  21. campcouch - Apr 15, 2014 at 10:18 PM

    Remove Chief Wahoo’s feather…it’s a good show!

  22. Dogsweat - Apr 15, 2014 at 10:31 PM

    Kansas City Red Dogs.

    Cleveland Barons.

    Washington Brave hearts.

  23. jollyjoker2 - Apr 15, 2014 at 11:24 PM

    Indian mascots are on the way out …they don’t teach cowboys and Indians in schools….they ought to change the mascot to a bunch of lesbos or fudge packers to fit in with the times.

    • unclemosesgreen - Apr 16, 2014 at 8:11 AM

      That’s wasn’t very jolly. Or very funny. You should change your username to “AngryJackhole”.

  24. railcarcowboy - Apr 16, 2014 at 12:46 AM

    Really!? The Chiefs now!? Give me a flipping break! How in the world is the Kansas City Chiefs offensive?

    • yahmule - Apr 16, 2014 at 3:16 AM

      I’ll bet Native Americans are sarcastically referred to as “Chief” more than they hear blatantly racist slurs.

      Also, why should a title that’s reserved to honor the leader of a group of people be casually applied as a nickname for a bunch of athletes? Especially a bunch of athletes who have been incapable of winning a playoff game for two flipping decades?

      The Chop.

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